You know by now that not much inspires me more than seeing how you’re all living with kids, especially when your own style and aesthetic grows up beautifully alongside them. Sure, there might be growing pains and a few awkward years and one or two horribly stained couches! But style, to me, has a lot in common with family life: it’s all about evolving and being better tomorrow than you may have been today. Iris and her family epitomize that ideal so perfectly. Not only are there five kids (I love seeing how stylishly big families are living!), but there’s also this underlying current of preparing everyone for real someday life while enjoying them so much right this very minute. Friends, I am pleased to introduce you to Iris! You’re going to love her.
Q: You’re Australian, married to a Swiss man and have five kids…living in the north of France. Draw us a map how you’ve traveled to this point!
A: Hello! My name is Iris but most people call me Cilla. I know, it’s weird. Eric is my Swiss husband and we have five kids, all of whom hold triple nationalities! There’s Zachary, who just turned 18, which I cannot even believe; where did my baby go? Then there’s John (16), Jessy (15), Anna (12), and Eve, who is nine.
Eric and I met in Paris while working at the same place. We married about a year later and went to live in Switzerland; first, in the German speaking part where Eric is from, near Basel, and then in Geneva which is French speaking. We studied there, but our hearts pulled us back to France. Our first son Zach was born, and soon after John. At this time an opportunity for work brought us to the north of France where we still live 16 years later!
Q: How would you describe your house? What makes it your home?
A: Our house is an old farmhouse that we bought and renovated to the best of our tight budget. A lot of sweat on Eric’s part! He’s had enough now but it really has served our family well. It is spacious and full of light which is so important in our region. It is mostly open plan downstairs, so it really promotes family life. We like being together, even though each one can find a little space for himself when necessary.
I think it’s the people that live in it that makes it my home! I actually associate my family with home. If they are there, then that’s my home.
Q: Has your style changed since the addition of kids?
A: Hmmm. I have to say no to that. Apart from making sure all the life threatening detergents and chemicals were out of reach, my style has stayed the same. Of course we’ve made spaces to play and we have a wardrobe nicely integrated in the decoration to hold board games and puzzles. But the kids learned from an early age not to touch certain things and to be careful. They adapted to our style, which it was a double blessing because we could take them around with us and they knew how to behave quite early on. Kids are very intelligent; give them credit and they’ll surprise you!
Q: You’re out of the toddler/tiny kid stage and well into tween and teen. How has growing up changed how you’re living with kids?
A: Oh yes, too right! But teens and tweens are so much fun! Having said that, I’m a real baby freak! I loved how they made me feel important and how they depended on me for nurturing.
Things have changed now. They still need me for moral support and that listening ear and sometimes my opinion! They all play instruments, so the house is often full of music instead of Lego blocks all over the place. It’s so lovely to come home and hear the sound of music from the front gate.
We also spend a lot of time drinking tea and chatting, which is also nice to get to know them as the people they are growing up to be.
As far as responsibilities, each of us has our own. We’re a team, and everyone pulls their weight. It makes them feel part of us and it makes life easier. Zach has already left for University, so John’s our laundry man; he puts the washing in and out of the dryer. Jessy looks after the dishwasher, emptying it and putting the dishes away. Anna clears the table in the evening, and Eve does it at midday. Each kid is responsible for cleaning their bedrooms every week. On holidays I also put them on the cooking roster! They learn how to cook, and it boosts their self esteem. It really works!
Q: Your outdoor space looks refined while wholly practical! Tell us about your garden.
A: Thank you! We just set up this raised veggie garden last year. I was quite inspired by the “Jardin de Curé” French style of garden which is supposed to be pleasing to the senses but also productive. I’ve planted lots of lavender and old fashioned roses and white hydrangea and sweet smelling honey suckle.
Have you guessed yet? I love my garden. It’s really my retreat in the warmer months. The cubby house just behind was built by my sons with their father, of course. It was build using recycled wood found here and there.
Q: I notice a studio with a sewing machine and a lot of gorgeous textiles around your home. Do you sew or design? Are you crafty?
A: Yes, I sew and design. I’m an all-round artist. I sculpture, paint, draw, make, and create! I have a small enterprise here in France called Fabricotti, and have opened an Etsy shop. I also have a blog by the same name. We recently made a few videos to promote it.
Creating for me is breathing! When I can’t create, I’m not well. And I painted the mural for Jessy’s room, our resident animal and insect lover.
Q: When does your home work best?
A: Our home works best when everybody has a project or something to do. It really works well when we have visitors or parties. There’s space for everyone without feeling cramped.
I think the living room and the family rooms both suite our lifestyle. Nothing is too precious and everyone has a place to sit! We use the living room more in the winter because the fireplace is in there. The family room has a television, which we use for our family cinema nights.
My favorite room? When it’s warm, you’ll find me in the garden (is that a room?) or else my studio.
Q: What do you hope the design and decor choices you’ve made teach your children? Have any of them been affected by your style, do you think?
A: I hope that my design and decor choices have taught my kids that style is not a question of money; if you have an eye for good design, you can do a lot with very little!
Also, to look or think out of the box. Follow what makes your heart leap and not the newest trend! My kids have definitely been affected by my style but they definitely have their own personal style, too. I encourage that.
I’m pretty neutral in my color choices, especially in the rooms where we spend the most of our time. I feel it’s more restful and the colors really come in with the clothing of everyone!
Q: What is your absolute favorite part about living with your own kids? What do you already miss?
A: I absolutely love seeing how their characters evolve and getting to know their personalities. I also really love traveling with them. I love introducing them to new places and customs. They are gems and most certainly my greatest achievement.
I miss not being able to pick them up in my arms and taking them everywhere!
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: …to have that sixth child!
Oh, Iris! You should have asked me about the sixth child! We are pretty fond of ours. A million thanks for sharing your comfortably chic home with us, but also for your candor and smart parenting style. I love the idea of adding them to the cooking roster; we encourage our own kids to contribute to dinner, too. I believe only good things can happen when everyone works together. Thank you for the reinforcement!
Friends, did any of you well up when Iris spoke about what she misses from the baby days? “I loved how they made me feel important…” Poignant, isn’t it? And so, so true. The key is finding other ways to feel equally important as they grow, right? Anyone have any tips for that? Those of us with older kids will be glad to hear how you’re coping.